IN PICTURES: The animals set to be made homeless when sanctuary closes
Staff at Easterleigh Animal Sanctuary are scrambling to find accomodation for around 80 animals, including horses, dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits and even two parrots, after the charity said it has been ordered off its St Annes site.
The charity, which has rehomed around 22,000 animals in past 20 years, has received an eviction notice following a year long row over the tenancy and must leave by the end of March, it said.
Eight jobs could be lost at the sanctuary, which was almost foced to close after being gutted by an arson attack three years ago.
Founder Mandy Leigh has pleaded for help in finding somewhere for Easterleigh’s eight horses and ponies to stay, and vowed: “There’s no way whatsoever any of my animals will be put to sleep.
“I have not spent 20 years of my life doing this just to give up now.”
The farm where Easterleigh is based, off Queensway, was bought for a five-figure sum last Christmas, The Gazette understands.
Its new owner issued the owner with a notice to quit – effectively terminating its tenancy, Mandy said.
A subsequent appeal failed and, earlier this month, a court ordered the charity off the land by March 31, the 67-year-old added.
Talks to work out a lease deal, or to buy the land, have so far failed.
And in legal papers seen by The Gazette, it was revealed a lease was never likely to be agreed.
The documents read: “We are instructed there will be no lease. It seems regrettably clear to our clients they and your client will simply [and sadly] never get along.
“It is perhaps one of those cases where too much has happened.”
Despite a huge fundraising drive backed by local celebrities, including the Blackpool-based Nolan sisters and comedian Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, Easterleigh has so far been unable to secure a suitable site to move to.
Upwards of £30,000 has so far been raised, but Mandy said a search for land with stables, land for the horses to roam, and room for a boarding kennel and cattery to provide the income needed to pay off any mortgage has failed.
Mandy said local kennels and catteries have agreed to take in the sanctuary’s dogs and cats until somewhere is found, while the pigs and rabbits could be cared for on land at her own home as a last resort.
She said mobile stables for the horses could be built there too, if £20,000 can be found.
But the animal-lover, who said she has struggled to sleep since the court ruling, has pleaded for help from kind-hearted Gazette readers with spare stables and land.
She said she hopes to keep some of her staff on, funded by three charity shops across the Fylde coast, in order to care for the horses, which cannot be ridden or rehomed for health reasons.
“My staff will come round and muck them out and take care of them,” she said. “If someone can help they won’t have to look after them and it won’t cost them anything.
“We just need the stabling.”
Staff member Val Clinton shared Easterleigh’s plight on Facebook, and appealed for people to help if they can.
She said: “The animals we have desperately need rehoming before our eviction date. If you, or anyone you know, can offer a loving forever home please contact either myself or the sanctuary directly.
“We have dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, two parrots, and eight horses and ponies.
“Please, on behalf of all the animals at Easterleigh, help us if you can.”
Mandy added: “I don’t just have the animals to worry about. I have eight members of staff I will have to let go. They understand, I have never kept anything back.
“They know by the end of March they could be out of jobs.
“But there’s always a way. I don’t give up. If we have to start again, we’ll start again.”
Easterleigh Animal Sanctuary opened as a charity devoted to rescuring unwanted animals in October 1998 and is named after Mandy’s late horse Easter Girl.
The sanctuary originally opened three years earlier as a livery stable. It now has charity shops in Red Bank Road, Bispham, Waterloo Road, Blackpool, and Victoria Road West, Cleveleys.
In 2012, around 26 animals perished after Jordan Morgan and Karl Heaton went on a three-hour drunken rampage around the Fylde.
Some 16 hens, five cats, four kittens and a rabbit were killed, while the pair caused £25,000 of damage at Easterleigh, it was later revealed in court.
Volunteers worked around the clock during a subsequent clean up mission while residents donated thousands of pounds to ensure the fire-ravaged sanctuary was renovated.
If you can help provide accommodation for the horses, or rehome one of the other animals, call Mandy on (01253) 595333.